was up bright but not so early on our third day in India, a Monday, which kicked off the “working” part of our ASEAN-India Media Exchange visit.

Indians are a stickler with time. There is no Filipino time in India. Since we got home almost midnight from our day trip to Agra the day before, I only had about 5 hours of sleep and woke up later than I wanted to. I had to skip breakfast that day because our Indian escort from MEA was already urging us into the bus. “Chalo! Chalo!” (Let’s go! Let’s go!).

Our itinerary that day started with a courtesy call on the Minister of India’s External Affairs, Shri S. M. Krishna. His office, which works like the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines, basically sponsored this year’s media exchange visit.

That meant he’s calling the shots because he’s the one holding the purse strings that  made our visit possible.

Last year, the media visit was sponsored by a private organization, the FICCI or the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The courtesy call took place in Hyderabad House. But don’t be deceived by its name. It is far from being just a house. It's a mansion.

Stately and sprawling, Hyderabad House looked like it was copied and pasted straight out of an Indian architectural magazine with its red latticed windows, tiered roof, arched doorways. It is surrounded by manicured, healthy lawns dotted with bright red and yellow flowers.

Hyderabad House is being used currently by the Indian government as venues for government functions like conferences and press briefings.

The interior is what you would expect of a high-level venue: everything was spotless, the floor was shiny, and the décor was elegant and understated.

Indian officials in ties and jackets were everywhere, along with poker-faced, rifle-carrying security guards.

We were first ushered into an empty briefing room, and later on transferred to a bigger room with a long oval table. Tall mirrors punctuated the deep mahogany walls. Above the table hung a sparkling chandelier.

As each of us journalists found and settled into our seats, I felt nervous and yet excited. The air was heavy with anticipation, the kind that comes when you’re about to meet someone very important.

While waiting for the minister to arrive, I scanned through his bio-data sheet which were handed to us earlier. Mr. Krishna is a law graduate from Bangalore who went on to study at George Washington University as a Fulbright scholar. He’s been the EA Minister since May 2009. He was also Governor of Maharashtra from 2004 until 2008. He is widely-traveled and his hobbies include tennis and yoga.

When the minister walked in and sat down, he proceeded right away to give a speech, welcoming us into his country and giving a brief background on ASEAN-India relations. The Indians tend to do things in a no-nonsense manner. In the photo below, that's him 3rd from right, cupping a hand to his ear as he asked one reporter to repeat his question. The Indians have a hard time with Asian accents. 

In his speech, Mr. Krishna described India’s relations with ASEAN member-states as “going well” with many ongoing cooperations in various sectors.

He spotlighted the institutionalization of the ASEAN-India Media Exchange Program, which he said is part of India’s move to boost the people-to-people dimension of ASEAN-India relations.

“The Indian media are keenly looking forward to visiting your countries as well,” said Krishna, his gaze sweeping across the table at the 20 ASEAN journalists.

After the brief interaction with the Minister, a group photo was taken outside the conference room.

Lunch with Indian Journalists

It was already past 1:00 p.m. when we left Hyderabad House. We boarded our bus that took us to another hotel where the XP Undersecretary will host our luncheon interaction with some Indian journalists.

Our names on a stand marked our seats around the table. It was strange looking at my name with my middle name written fully. I’m used to using just the middle initial.

It was, in all honesty, an uncomfortable lunch. I was starving by this time. My body clock was 2 hours ahead (Philippine time is two hours ahead than India’s) so that meant my body was telling me it’s already 4 pm and I haven’t had anything to eat since waking up.

The food was served by course and in small portions. Which meant that I had to wait until everyone else is finished with their food until the next course is served.

To make matters worse, our host wanted to interact first before eating. I was holding my bag tightly to my stomach for fear that my seatmates - the ASEAN Secretariat on my left and a lady Indian journalist on my right - would hear it grumbling. It sounded loud to my ears.

This was the part that I was expecting I would enjoy the most and yet it was for me a bit of a disaster. The Indian journalists were fired up - outspoken and verbose. The ASEAN journalists were silent mostly, and answered only when prodded. We lacked sleep and were hungry.

It would have been better if they just let us mingle around, chatting up and exchanging business cards while eating food from a buffet. An informal setting would have encouraged a more fruitful engagement between the journalists. 

While I was trying hard not to appear famished by not eating up all the food on my plate all at once, I suddenly heard Kamal (of the ASEAN Secretariat seated to my left and the guy you see in the photo above) say: “Rachelle, why don’t you start by saying something?”

I looked up at him with my mouth full and chewing.

Err, what was the question?

I was so focused on my food and my mouth was filled with curry and some green stuff with beans that were absolutely delicious.

I wanted to glare at Kamal but couldn’t, not with my mouth full and chewing.

For fear of choking in front of my Indian and ASEAN counterparts, I shook my head at him and covered my mouth with my hand.

But I made up for that later on. A little later in the lunch, when I have recovered and my stomach was no longer making embarrassing noises, the XP Undersecretary asked his “friends from the Philippines” what are the Filipinos’ impression of India.

I answered that what we know of India is what we see on TV and the movies mainly, like Bollywood re-runs on an Indian channel on the local cable and the movie “3Idiots.” I told them the movie was such a big hit back in the Philippines that my friends were telling me to bring back Aamir Khan with me.

They laughed at this.

Someone else in the room, an Indian official, was laughing harder than the rest. I would find out later on why.

Opening of Delhi Dialogue IV

After an unfulfilling lunch (most of the ASEAN journalists didn’t eat much during that lunch), we proceeded to the plush Hotel Taj Palace for the opening of Delhi Dialogue IV.

The session started with Indian Council of World Affairs Director General Sudhir Devare giving his welcome remarks. A flurry of speeches followed from key ministers of India (Mr. Krishna), Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Deputy Secretary-General for Community and Corporate Affairs of ASEAN, Bagas Hapsoro.

Interestingly, no one from the Philippine government gave a Keynote Address.

The launching of the book “Two Decades of India’s Look East Policy” followed, of which the speakers were given each a copy.

We all secured copies of their speeches which were being handed out at the lobby of the conference room.

I was in a hurry to get back to the hotel so I can start writing my news stories.

All is well

When we boarded our bus, we found paper bags on each of our seats with a note clipped to it saying “With the best Compliments from External Publicity Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.”

Inside, there was a gift box that contained a small, beautiful wooden chest. Ensconced inside the box is a pouch filled with Presidential Selection Regal Darjeeling tea leaves.

There were also three DVDs: one, a Sarod Symphony music CD and the second, a DVD entitled “Living Stories: Storytelling Traditions of India.”

It was at this point that the other ASEAN journalists inside the bus burst out laughing while calling my attention. “Hey Rachelle, you got your wish!” one of them said in glee.

I reached inside and pulled out the third DVD.

It was a DVD entitled “3 Idiots.”

This was the reason why Jagjit Singh, Publicity Officer from the External Publicity Division and the guy responsible for arranging our stay in India, was laughing harder than the others during our lunch with the Indian journalists when I mentioned "3 Idiots." Jagjit is responsible for choosing what items will be inside our gift bags from the Ministry.

I leaned back in my seat with a smile. All is well.

Up next is Day 4 post, “The Dialogues”

This post is part of my 7 Days of Incredible India series. In case you missed the previous posts in this series, click on the following (at your own risk!) :

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  1. Haha. I was also laughing when I saw the CD. Was it coincidence? But I love that film too. It's very inspiring.. :)

    -KC Canlas

  2. @KC, it was pure coincidence! Jagjit said they already prepared those gift bags days before the event. Swerte ko lang yata that day hehe. Thanks for dropping by my blog! :-))

  3. beautiful travel photos!
    i love the 3 idiots too! hahah! :)

  4. Thank you Athena! Now I feel like watching the movie again hehe. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  5. well, a little feeling of hunger now and then is a good thing... ;)

  6. Wow! I envy you as I have yet to travel to India and converse with them personally rather than on the phone. :D

    I'm just curious with the "3 Idiots" though. I hope you could provide me with a short preview of it if its ok with you. ^_^

  7. @ROMELO: Especially if you're trying to diet! :-))

  8. this is quiet a long day.. i haven't seen that movie..

  9. Haven't watched 3 Idiots yet, but I heard good reviews on this movie. Makes me eager to watch it.

  10. @markpogi: I'll dedicate one blog post about that movie! Soon as I'm done with my India series. :-))

  11. @krystle: you really should! it's inspiring and will make your tummy ache sa kakatawa.

    @Ivan Stewart: You must watch it! It's one of the best modern Indian movies. Promise. :-)

    Thanks for dropping by guys!

  12. one of the most inspiring movies for me :)
    reminds me of college days and how we dreamed of becoming engineers :D

  13. I have always been fascinated by India. One of the most picturesque countries I know. Never heard of the movie 3Idiots before. Now I'm really curios.

  14. Now I know why that is your title. It really made your day! What a moment with laughter and coincidence! haha.

  15. I'm sure when you watch that movie. You'll always remember your visit to india.

  16. Lucky you. Inggit ako. I wanna see these places.

  17. India! its one of the most colorful cultures! I love that movie too...

  18. This is the best time to watch 3 idiots na cguro.. haha Im curious. anyway, I like thos pics. How I wish I could visit India too! :P
    - Sionee

  19. After the days work I think each one of us deserves a nice bunch of laughter. I have never watched 3 idiots and most of my friends recommend it. I think I need to look for a DVD from now on. Tnx for the post! I am smiling while reading your post! Salute you too! :)

  20. @Paliiits- I agree, the movie is inspiring in its side-splitting funny way :-)

    @lakwatsero- what you see in Indian movies pale in comparison to India's colors. If you have the dinero, you should visit India. Incredible is really the right word to describe it!

    @Edmaration: Thank you!

    @Stacy Lion: Yes, the movie will remind me always of India. And cows, too.

    @Kathy Ngo: I hope you'll get to visit India one of these days!

    @Sionee: Ay you should watch it talaga. It's so funny. You will fall in love with Aamir Khan after you see it.

    @Ms. Novie: After you watch it, tell me what you think! :-)

  21. *gasp* ... the photos of the Hyderabad House are breathtaking! Such a wonderful opportunity for you to see what's inside! Enjoyed this post! I felt like I was in a tour! :-)


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